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South Africa Education Facts


The state compulsory school is formally compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 16, from first to ninth grade, but the school system struggles with major problems. Many students leave school prematurely without having learned to read and write. Over five million adults are estimated to be illiterate, which has made adult education an important part of the school system.

The apartheid system had different schools for whites, colored, Asians and blacks. Schooling was not compulsory for blacks, who thus received poorer education and usually only access to low-wage jobs. Occasionally ten times more resources were invested on a white student than on a black. Protests in the schools against apartheid and the unjust schooling system sometimes led to lower education.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of South Africa, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.

From 1991, state schools were opened to students of all races and in 1995 the racial segregation officially ceased.

In 2007, free schooling was introduced in poor districts. Although tuition in these schools is free of charge, costs for school uniforms, trips to and from school and in many cases teaching materials are also burdensome.

There is a great lack of qualified teachers as well as premises and teaching materials. While white teachers are normally competent, many black teachers lack sufficient education.

Almost all children start school, but many do not go from primary and secondary school to secondary school. Around 50 out of 100 students complete their upper secondary education, but only 28 of them pass their matric.

Only one student in 100 graduates from universities, which has led to the high-tech business sector suffering from a shortage of well-educated labor.

South Africa’s university system is considered to be Africa’s best with more than twenty universities and technical and economic colleges. Now more than half of the students are black.

  • Educationvv: Provides school and education information in South Africa, covering middle school, high school and college education.


Proportion of children starting primary school

84.3 percent (2015)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

30 (2015)

Reading and writing skills

94.4 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

18.7 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

18.7 percent (2017)



The Minister of Finance is dismissed

President Zuma dismisses surprising Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, causing the value of the country’s currency, the rand, to collapse. Zuma gives no reason for his actions. According to media speculation, the dismissal is due to Nene criticizing the semi-state airline SAA’s actions and sentencing a nuclear power plant project. Both SAA and the nuclear power project are controlled by people close to Zuma. At all, Nene has shown restraint in government spending. Among other things, he has been critical of salary increases for civil servants and said no to a new private aircraft for Zuma. The decision to dismiss Nene and replace him with a fairly unknown ANC parliamentarian, David van Rooyen, is criticized by the opposition and by economic analysts. The dismissal comes just days after two international credit rating agencies lowered South Africa’s rating to a “level of debris” due to the country’s financial problems with stagnant growth, high inflation and high interest rates. A few days later, Zuma seems to have accepted the criticism, replacing Van Rooyen with Pravin Gordhan, who was a reputable finance minister between 2009 and 2014. The change of minister obviously strengthens confidence in South Africa’s economy abroad and the currency rises in value.

Chinese President on state visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits South Africa, and the countries sign a series of cooperation agreements that correspond to Chinese investments of $ 6.5 billion. The money will primarily be used to improve South Africa’s infrastructure. At a Pretoria summit between Jinping and a number of African leaders, China promises to provide $ 60 billion in aid and loans to Africa as a whole. Jinping states that further assistance should be provided to alleviate the effects of the drought that has affected the continent.


Investigation is ordered

President Zuma orders an investigation into the role of police chief Riah Phiyega when 34 miners were shot dead by police during a strike in 2012. The three who do the investigation will investigate whether the police tried to hide information. Phiyega, who was new to the post at the time, lacked previous experience in police work.


Sudan’s President on State Visit – South Africa goes against ICC

When Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir visits South Africa in connection with an AU meeting, the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, is calling for (see Sudan: Political System), that he should be arrested. As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to intervene, but the South African government does not appear willing to intervene. However, a human rights organization, the Southern Africa Litigation Center, is appealing to the court to have the case tried. The court orders the Sudanese president not to leave the country before his case is tried. When the court issues a detention order, al-Bashir has already left the country. The government receives criticism for how it handled the case, and the judge in the case appeals to prosecutors to decide whether to prosecute the government for leaving Al-Bashir to leave the country.

New free trade agreement

South Africa and 25 other countries agree on a new free trade agreement, the Tripartite Free Trade Area, which covers most of Africa between Egypt in the north and South Africa in the south. However, before the agreement can come into force, negotiations are required and the agreement is approved by the parliaments of the countries.

Zuma not obliged to pay back money

The country’s police minister explains that Zuma does not have to repay money for the criticized renovation of the presidential residence (see March 2014). Also the construction of the pool is a “security update” according to the minister. According to him, it can be used as a water reservoir in the event of a fire.


First colored party leader

The opposition party The Democratic Alliance is getting a colored party leader for the first time when party leader Mmusi Maimane is elected new chairman after resigning Helen Zille.


12,000 are arrested as a result of riots

The riots are followed by the police and army campaign “Operation Fiela” with the aim of finding illegal immigrants in slums. More than 12,000 people are arrested.

Xenophobia leads to riots

Alien hostilities lead to riots and attacks on immigrants. Seven people are killed in various incidents. Violence is rooted in high unemployment; many of those who do not have jobs are targeting anger towards immigrants from poorer neighboring countries who are competing for jobs. Many foreign business owners close their businesses after looting. The army is deployed to curb the violence while thousands of people flee to their home countries. The Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini is accused of inflicting the violence when he blamed the immigrants for the increased crime and said they had to leave the country. Zwelithini says he was misunderstood. President Zuma must also defend himself against criticism. Zuma is accused of being late in condemning the violence and of expressing himself vaguely when he spoke.


Promises from Zuma

In his address to the nation, President Zuma promised new laws that would make it illegal for foreigners to own land in South Africa and restrict the domestic property of domestic owners. According to Zuma, the laws will be presented to Parliament later in 2015.

Chaos erupts in Parliament

Chaos erupts in Parliament when President Zuma gives his annual speech to the nation. Members of Julius Malema’s party EFF interrupt the speech with loud calls to Zuma to repay the large sums he spent on renovating the presidential palace. Security guards are called in and lifted out by the EFF’s parliamentarians. Democratic Alliance members march out of Parliament in protest of the guards’ intervention.


The cook is released

The occupational killer Eugene de Kock is released after 20 years in prison. During the apartheid era, De Kock led a death squadron within the police, which was tasked with killing regime opponents. Before the Faith and Truth Commission set up in 1995 to settle the legacy of apartheid, Kock acknowledged around 100 cases of murder, torture and other crimes. De Kock was granted amnesty for most of the crimes, but he was sentenced to lengthy prison sentences for six murders that were not considered to have any direct political connection. The government believes that the release of the Kock will strengthen the nation-building and reconciliation process. The news evokes mixed feelings among the victims’ relatives.

Highway is named after ex-president

After a chaotic meeting in Cape Town’s governing assembly, a section of a highway in the city is named after ex-president FW de Klerck, who led South Africa during the transition from apartheid to democracy (see Modern History). The name change was supported by the Democratic Alliance, which has power in Cape Town but met fierce opposition from the ANC. The proposal could only be voted on since the DA locked ANC representatives out of the assembly hall.

At least six people die in riots

At least six people lose their lives during a week’s riots in the township of Soweto outside Johannesburg. Looters go to stores owned by foreigners after a foreign business owner shot to death a teenager who tried to rob him.

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